A classic us-against-everyone mentality nearly paid off brilliantly for Adelaide, but instead they were shattered after the AFL preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.
After slumping to 14th last season, the Crows won the pre-season competition, finished second in the home-and-away season and on Saturday came within five points of their first grand final since the 1998 premiership.
First-year senior coach Brenton Sanderson was full of praise for his team and readily admitted they wanted to prove the critics wrong.
"There are a lot of tears in the changeroom," Sanderson said.
"I don't think I've seen a group so disappointed and I think it's because we really wanted to shock you (media).
"No one picked us, no one thought we'd get to this far let alone that point in the game.
"But we had strong belief within our group that we could win today."
Sanderson said throughout the season, Adelaide were defying outside expectations.
They choked in their qualifying final loss to Sydney, but then rallied brilliantly to beat Fremantle in a semi-final and came so close to an epic upset against Hawthorn.
Adding to the pain of the loss, it was the last game for Crows veteran Michael Doughty.
Sanderson said over the off-season, Adelaide would have to manage much greater expectations about their performance.
"Next year, we will be expected to finish where we left off this year," he said.
"We have to live with that through the summer and field questions about that over most of the summer."
For all the bravery of Saturday's loss, it was their fourth preliminary final loss since the 1997-98 premierships.
Sanderson said there was a good feeling at the pre-game meeting as the Crows went over their plan to beat the Hawks.
One of the keys was shutting down what Sanderson called Hawthorn's "mark chains" - their ability to set up team-mates down the ground with accurate kicks.
He and Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said separately that the third term was crucial.
Hawthorn kicked four unanswered goals to take the initiative from Adelaide and set up the epic final term.
Sanderson said they would now use the game as a teaching tool for the players over the summer - and no doubt to spur them for greater efforts next season.
"I'm sure we'll look at that game a lot, as painful as it might be, just to see areas where we could have improved and maybe used the ball a little bit better," he said.
"God, they're hard - they're so hard to win and it's almost like Hawthorn now, they get to a grand final and the pressure is off.
"It's a big game for them next week.
"Everyone wrote us off, that's fine, because Hawthorn should have been the favourites.
"But the underdogs, sometimes you never know."